It started as a chore. We went, we ran, we came back. My Husky puppy with the bluest eyes, Milo, never seemed to get enough. The people at the park were calm, serene, lazy, crazy, manic, paranoid, weird and brilliant, by turns. But the wisdom of the dog park was pure-bred.
For starters, there was no hierarchy at the dog park. For the first time in my life, it didn’t matter what you did, how much money you made, where you went to school, what you wore or what you looked like. The only stratification was of the dogs. Puppies took top helm, followed by cute, well-behaved large dogs, followed by small, but sometimes irate smaller dogs. Everybody poops.
If your dog had a BFF, someone he played with from the beginning, in our case, “Casey” — well those two got priority over other relationships. If that BFF wanted to see your dog, you got your ass over there (rain, sleet, snow — no matter). The park, nothing too grand, overlooked the Hudson River. On wintry days, the wind was at odds with everything. On summer days, it was great to see them run like the wind, or a tall ship or barge bellowing by. If a dog was sick or scratched or cranky or neutered or swallowed a large tennis ball, then you would inquire after that dog for at least a week or two, so that you could show you really cared. No one asked about you. Only the weather and the dog.
Since I’m good with names I have to make a pairing now; Nala goes with Sam and the other Nala goes with Anthony. Luna goes with Cathy. Luna is also my cat. The other Milo is half Husky half Bassett Hound. (If you can picture a Husky with half his legs chopped off…). Then there’s Merlot and Cab, two other Huskies, who are supremely well-behaved and yet the same age as Milo. And Buddy who goes with Grace, the person, who I found out is sick with leukemia, yet has the sharpest tongue around. Black, white, hispanic, Jewish. The “townies” speak the truth the best. Where to get your oil changed, where to get your teeth cleaned or where to buy the cheapest USA dog treats for the best price. All at the dog park.
At sunset a hush falls over us.
Yellow, then blue tugboats lug up-river.
A siren sounds: one, two, three, for a fire.
The man Joe and his dog Rocky gently tussle.
The man Marcello’s dog, Mister, the shepherd, knocks me down for a blow on my bad ankle; brings bone scraps for Milo.
Then there’s Mike. What was for breakfast? Did you have your coffee? Always cheerful even though he can barely walk. He blew out his knees from a softball injury years ago. History of alcohol abuse. He’s the most cheerful person in dog land. Asks about the kids and then cooks for us. First sauce, then meatballs then perogies, then lasagna then two kinds of cake, lemon and chocolate (we devour the lemon). He’ll drop it off for us. He’ll do anything for us. He is open, special, caring, direct. He is down to earth. He is my age or younger. He lives alone. He owns a building. You never want to let him down because he never lets you down. Everybody knows him. There’s nothing I could buy him or do for him that would repay his generosity of spirit. The locals know him and the highbrow know him. He drives people around for extra bucks. His dog is a mutt. He is Polish-American. Day after day we try our best to be on the “upswing,” as he calls it. And here at the dog park, that’s all that matters.
Post-Script: the dog park was closed down about six months ago for a variety of controversial reasons. All that remains is Milo and Me.